Tuesday 11 September 2012

World Cup ticket within reach as Japan edge past Iraq

The Japan national team moved into a commanding position at the top of Group B in the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup following a 1-0 victory over Iraq at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Ryoichi Maeda netted the only goal on 25 minutes to take the Samurai Blue six points clear of Jordan, who enjoyed a shock 2-1 win over Australia in Amman. Both the Socceroos and Iraq are now eight points off the pace, albeit with one game in hand.

Alberto Zaccheroni was forced into a last-minute reshuffle after Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa withdrew from the side having hurt his back in training. Hiroshi Kiyotake started on the left of midfield with Shinji Okazaki on the right.

Suspensions for defenders Atsuto Uchida and Yuzo Kurihara saw Yuichi Komano come in at right-back and Masahiko Inoha partner Maya Yoshida in the centre.

Iraq coach Zico claimed to know ‘everything’ about Japan before the game, having played for Kashima Antlers in the first two J. League seasons and managed the national team between 2002 and 2006. His selection was somewhat eccentric, however, with fully ten changes to the starting line-up and full international debuts handed to youngsters Ali Bahjat and Waleed Saleem.

If anything, this at least had the effect of confusing the Japanese defenders when it came to who they should mark at set pieces. Hammadi Ahmad had a great chance to open the scoring for the visitors when he was found completely unmarked at the far post from an Iraq corner, but his shot flew wide via a slight deflection off Yuto Nagatomo.

But Japan slowly found their rhythm midway through the first half, with Okazaki and Maeda resuming the fine understanding they demonstrated at last year’s Asian Cup to create the crucial opener. Okazaki volleyed the ball across the six yard line for the Jubilo Iwata forward to react quickest and head past Noor Sabri.

The home side remained in control thereafter, but struggled to create many chances while occasionally offering Iraq hope on the counter. Ahmed Yasin forced a decent save out of Eiji Kawashima a few minutes before half time with an excellent shot that curled around Komano.

Japan were more careful on the ball in the second period and appeared content to hold onto both possession and points. They did create the best two opportunities, however, both falling to the head of Honda.

The CSKA Moscow man missed the target from Nagatomo’s cross, before connecting more cleanly with a pinpoint ball from the deeper-lying Kiyotake only to watch Sabri push it onto the post.


Speaking to Asahi TV after the game, Zaccheroni said, “I am very happy to get the victory and the three points. It was a hard game between two teams that both expect to qualify for the World Cup, but we did well to win 1-0.

“I wasn’t worried about the opponents because I felt we would win if we played our game, but they put out 11 players in good condition and made things difficult at times. We want to get our ticket to the World Cup as quickly as possible, so our thoughts now immediately turn to the next game.”

Goalscorer Maeda added, “‘Oka’ sent in a great cross just like we had practised in training for me to score. We had fantastic supporters around us tonight, and I was happy to get the winning goal for them.”


Over the weekend, there were upsets aplenty as the J. League sides entered the Emperor’s Cup at the second round proper, with six suffering immediate elimination at the hands of non-league opposition.

The biggest casualties were Sanfrecce Hiroshima, currently second in J1, who slipped to a 2-1 defeat against FC Imabari of the fourth-tier Shikoku League.

Hisato Sato looked to have prevented embarrassment for Hiroshima when his 75th-minute equaliser cancelled out an early opener from Ryusei Morikawa, but Shuya Takahashi lofted a perfect ball over the defence for Daiki Takada to volley Imabari into the last 32.

Holders FC Tokyo went out at the first hurdle at home to Yokogawa Musashino of the third-level Japan Football League thanks to a last-minute goal from Keisuke Iwata, while high-flying Sagan Tosu suffered an identical fate in their home tie with J. League promotion hopefuls Kamatamare Sanuki.

Consadole Sapporo lost on penalties to Nagano Parceiro, currently top of the JFL but ineligible for promotion until their new stadium is completed, while Vissel Kobe lost 2-1 to Sagawa Shiga.

J2 leaders Ventforet Kofu went down on spot kicks to Fukushima United of the fourth-tier Tohoku League Division 1.

It was not all bad news for the big clubs, however, as Jubilo Iwata ran out 7-0 winners over FC Suzuka Rampole, while Kashima Antlers thrashed the University of Tsukuba 7-1.

In the most remarkable matchup of the round, defending J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol emerged as 3-0 victors against their own Under-18 side.

A full list of results can be found below.

World Cup qualifying results – AFC fourth round
Group A
Uzbekistan L-L South Korea
Lebanon L-L Iran

Group B
Japan 1-0 Iraq
Oman L-L Australia

Emperor’s Cup second round results
Kashiwa Reysol 3-0 Kashiwa Reysol U18
Shonan Bellmare 1-0 Ehime FC
Consadole Sapporo 1-1 Nagano Parceiro (after extra time; Nagano won 5-3 on penalties)
FC Tokyo 0-1 Yokogawa Musashino
Jubilo Iwata 7-0 FC Suzuka Rampole
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-3 Kyoto Sanga
Vissel Kobe 1-2 Sagawa Shiga
JEF United Chiba 1-0 V-Varen Nagasaki
Vegalta Sendai 1-0 Sony Sendai
Roasso Kumamoto 4-3 FC Gifu (after extra time)
Omiya Ardija 2-0 Blaublitz Akita
Avispa Fukuoka 4-2 Fukuoka University
Yokohama F Marinos 4-2 Y.S.C.C.
Tochigi SC 0-1 Yokohama FC (after extra time)
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Nara Club
Montedio Yamagata 3-0 Tonan Maebashi
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Kataller Toyama
Nagoya Grampus 2-0 FC Kariya
Sagan Tosu 0-1 Kamatamare Sanuki
Urawa Reds 2-1 Volca Kagoshima
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 FC Imabari
Machida Zelvia 1-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu (after extra time; Machida won 5-4 on penalties)
Shimizu S-Pulse 5-0 Arterivo Wakayama
Tokyo Verdy 3-0 Hoyo Oita
Gamba Osaka 3-0 Kansai University
Oita Trinita 2-2 Mito HollyHock (after extra time; Mito won 5-3 on penalties)
Albirex Niigata 2-1 Saurcos Fukui (after extra time)
Ventforet Kofu 0-0 Fukushima United (after extra time; Fukushima won 4-3 on penalties)
Kashima Antlers 7-1 University of Tsukuba
Gainare Tottori 2-1 Thespa Kusatsu
Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 Tokuyama University
Tokushima Vortis 5-1 Fagiano Okayama Next

Ben Mabley will be analysing the English Premier League for the JSports programme ‘Foot!’ this season, every Tuesday night at 10pm on JSports 3.

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Monday 03 September 2012

Ryang magic sends Sendai back on top

Vegalta Sendai came from behind to beat Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 and return to the head of the J1 table after Sanfrecce Hiroshima were held to a 1-1 draw at Jubilo Iwata.

At the Yamaha Stadium, things appeared to be going according to plan for the leaders at the start of play when Hisato Sato got his head to a Koji Morisaki corner on 20 minutes to register his 18th league goal of an astonishingly prolific season thus far.

But Jubilo were given the opportunity to equalise a quarter of an hour later when Sanfrecce defender Hiroki Mizumoto fouled his international teammate Yuichi Komano. The Japan left-back dusted himself off to take the resulting free kick himself, curling the ball over the outside edge of the wall and just inside Shusaku Nishikawa’s near post.

At this point on Saturday evening, it still looked as if Hiroshima would be staying on top as Sendai trailed at half time; Kyohei Noborizato heading home a cross from Kengo Nakamura.

However, two goals in quick succession early in the second period secured consecutive victories for Makoto Teguramori’s men on the back of the five-game winless run that had threatened to derail their title challenge.

Naoya Tamura headed his first ever J1 goal before Ryang Yong-Gi bent in a beautiful free kick from the edge of the penalty area.

Vegalta now lead Sanfrecce by a single point, with Urawa Reds two further back in third after missing a glorious opportunity to close in further at the Saitama Derby with Omiya Ardija.

The points looked in the bag when Genki Haraguchi put Urawa in front early on and Omiya forward Milivoje Novaković was dismissed for a second yellow card inside just 18 minutes.

But Keigo Higashi levelled the scores with a low, curling effort from well outside the box on the stroke of half time, and Reds were unable to find a winner despite outshooting their neighbours by 17 attempts to two.

Jubilo Iwata are in fourth position, seven points off the top.


At the bottom, Levir Culpi’s rescue mission at Cerezo Osaka got off to the perfect start as the first game of his third spell in charge ended in a 1-0 victory away to relegation battle rivals Albirex Niigata.

A long ball from goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon was headed on by Japan Olympic forward Kenyu Sugimoto for Yoichiro Kakitani to dispatch his seventh goal of the campaign with ten minutes remaining.

The win takes Cerezo five points clear of danger, with city rivals Gamba Osaka now only ahead of the dotted line, Niigata, and Omiya on goal difference after going down 4-1 at the ever-impressive Sagan Tosu.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus edged Kashiwa Reysol 1-0 in a battle of last season’s top two to move up to sixth, level on points with Iwata and Tosu.

Shimizu S-Pulse won 2-0 away to Consadole Sapporo, FC Tokyo beat Yokohama F Marinos 3-1, while a terrific 30-yard strike from Yuya Osako gave Kashima Antlers a 1-0 victory over Vissel Kobe.

- Two Japanese Olympic stars completed late moves ahead of the closure of the European transfer window. Yuki Otsu switched Borussia Mönchengladbach for VVV Venlo, while Maya Yoshida left the Dutch club to join Tadanari Lee at Premier League newcomers Southampton.
- Hiroshi Kiyotake registered his first official Bundesliga assist, with Tomáš Pekhart heading home the former Cerezo man’s corner during a 1-1 draw for Nürnberg at home to Borussia Dortmund.
- VfB Stuttgart full-back Gotoku Sakai is the one uncapped name in Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan squad for the upcoming friendly with the United Arab Emirates and World Cup qualifying match against Iraq.

J1 results (matchday 24)
Consadole Sapporo 0-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Urawa Reds 1-1 Omiya Ardija
FC Tokyo 3-1 Yokohama F Marinos
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 1-0 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 0-1 Cerezo Osaka
Jubilo Iwata 1-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Nagoya Grampus 1-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Gamba Osaka 4-1 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 32)
Mito HollyHock 2-0 Gainare Tottori
Machida Zelvia 2-2 Fagiano Okayama
Yokohama FC 1-3 Tochigi SC
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-2 Thespa Kusatsu
Kataller Toyama 1-0 Ehime FC
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Oita Trinita 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
Tokushima Vortis 2-2 Montedio Yamagata
JEF United Chiba 2-1 Avispa Fukuoka
FC Gifu 1-0 Tokyo Verdy
Kyoto Sanga 1-2 Shonan Bellmare

Ben Mabley will be analysing the English Premier League for the JSports programme ‘Foot!’ this season, every Tuesday night at 10pm on JSports 3.

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Monday 27 August 2012

Seven up for Gamba as Leandro fires Osakans out of the drop zone

Leandro scored a hat-trick to help Gamba Osaka climb out of the relegation zone for the first time all season with a 7-2 thumping of hapless Consadole Sapporo on Saturday evening.

The home side at Banpaku came out of the blocks quickly, taking the lead with their tenth goal attempt in just the 16th minute when top scorer Akihiro Sato got his head to a cross from Shu Kurata.

Takuma Hidaka then exposed Gamba’s continued defensive weakness with an immediate equaliser from Sapporo’s first opportunity, but Leandro took charge of proceedings with a spectacular volley to put the hosts back in front, before taking advantage of a poor defensive header to loft the ball over goalkeeper Tetsu Sugiyama for the third just before half time.

The Brazilian converted a Hiroki Fujiharu cross on 57 minutes to complete his hat-trick, taking him to six goals in just five appearances since returning to the club from Qatar, and after that point it was simply a matter of how many for Gamba. Yasuyuki Konno, a comedic own goal by Shunsuke Iwanuma, and Akihiro Ienaga took the tally to seven, with Shinya Uehara netting a consolation for Consadole.

However, the situation remains extremely tight at the bottom after fellow strugglers Cerezo Osaka inflicted a first league defeat in 16 games on sixth-placed Yokohama F Marinos, while a superb goal from Michael – nonchalantly lifted over the covering defender from a tight angle – gave Albirex Niigata a 1-0 win at Kashima Antlers.

Cerezo are now two points clear of safety in 14th position, with Gamba ahead of Niigata on goal difference with the second highest goals for and goals against tallies in the division.

Omiya Ardija drop to second from bottom after Vegalta Sendai finally returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory at the NACK5 Stadium. Yu Hasegawa gave the Squirrels the lead with a left-footed effort from 25 yards, but Wilson equalised for Sendai right on half time and strikes in the second period from Jiro Kamata and Toshihiro Matsushita secured a first three points in six matches for the title challengers.


With that victory for Vegalta, the gap at the top is back down to just a single point after leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at home to FC Tokyo.

Tokyo manager Ranko Popović took the unusual step of matching Sanfrecce’s idiosyncratic 3-4-2-1 system, and it paid dividends when veteran striker Lucas collected the ball from Yohei Kajiyama and fired a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net on 49 minutes.

Hiroshima had twice as many goal attempts but were unable to find their way past Shuichi Gonda, with both Hisato Sato and Hironori Ishikawa guilty of misses late on.

Urawa Reds are now just two points off the summit in third after a 2-0 victory away to Shimizu S-Pulse. Tsukasa Umesaki played what was effectively a cross-field 1-2 with Tadaaki Hirakawa to volley Reds in front after 11 minutes, before being fouled by Alex Brosque to give Yuki Abe the chance to double the lead from the spot.

Jubilo Iwata leapfrogged Kashiwa Reysol into fourth with a 3-0 drubbing at the Hitachi Stadium, where Kashiwa defender Naoya Kondo was dismissed after just 18 minutes.

Elsewhere, Nagoya Grampus put their recent miseries behind them with a 1-0 win at Kawasaki Frontale, while Vissel Kobe played out a scoreless draw with Sagan Tosu.

- Shinji Kagawa made an immediate impact on his Old Trafford debut as Manchester United beat Fulham 3-2, scoring a tap-in from close range after Tom Cleverley’s effort had been parried by Mark Schwarzer.
- A host of Japanese names were in action on the opening weekend of the German Bundesliga. Hiroshi Kiyotake was the stand-out performer, sending in the corner for Hanno Balitsch to head the only goal for Nürnberg in their 1-0 win at Hamburg.
- Victory over Yokohama F Marinos was not enough for Sérgio Soares to save his job at Cerezo Osaka, with the club announcing on Sunday that Levir Culpi had returned for a third spell in charge in order to stave off the threat of relegation.

J1 results (matchday 23)
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-2 Urawa Reds
Kashima Antlers 0-1 Albirex Niigata
Omiya Ardija 1-3 Vegalta Sendai
Kashiwa Reysol 0-3 Jubilo Iwata
Kawasaki Frontale 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 7-2 Consadole Sapporo
Cerezo Osaka 2-0 Yokohama F Marinos
Vissel Kobe 0-0 Sagan Tosu
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 31)
Tokyo Verdy 0-2 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Ventforet Kofu 2-1 Yokohama FC
Gainare Tottori 0-3 Tokushima Vortis
Ehime FC 0-0 FC Gifu
Shonan Bellmare 2-1 Tochigi SC
Montedio Yamagata 3-1 Machida Zelvia
Thespa Kusatsu 1-0 Kyoto Sanga
JEF United Chiba 3-0 Mito HollyHock
Fagiano Okayama 0-0 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 2-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 Kataller Toyama

Ben Mabley will be analysing the English Premier League for the JSports programme ‘Foot!’ this season, every Tuesday night at 10pm on JSports 3.
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Monday 20 August 2012

Sato stars as Sanfrecce storm clear

J1 leading scorer Hisato Sato was once again the hero as Sanfrecce Hiroshima opened up a four-point lead at the head of the division after winning 2-0 away to Albirex Niigata.

With the two sides immediately below them, Vegalta Sendai and Kashiwa Reysol, drawing a blank in their meeting at the Yurtec Stadium, Hajime Moriyasu’s side took advantage and forced their way in front midway through the opening period when Toshihiro Aoyama’s superb through ball bisected the Albirex back four for Sato to do what he does best – slotting home his 17th league goal of the campaign.

The 30-year-old then turned provider ten minutes into the second half when he ran around the outside of the home defence and cut the ball back to give Naoki Ishihara an easy finish.

New signing Neto Baiano made his first start for Kashiwa but fired wide with the best opportunity of a second-versus-third battle that failed to live up to expectations. Long-time leaders Sendai remain the closest challengers to Hiroshima, but are now without a win in seven competitive fixtures.

Urawa Reds moved up to third with a 2-1 victory over Kashima Antlers, while fifth-placed Yokohama F Marinos extended their unbeaten streak to a joint club record of 15 league matches but had to settle for a point after neighbours Kawasaki Frontale came back from two behind to draw 2-2 at the Nissan Stadium.

Jubilo Iwata put an end to their recent poor run with a thrilling 4-3 victory over struggling Cerezo Osaka.

First half equalisers from Olympic stars Hotaru Yamaguchi and Takahiro Ogihara cancelled out Jubilo goals from defenders Yoshiaki Fujita and Shunya Suganuma. Kempes’s header then looked set to earn a crucial three points for Cerezo until Ryoichi Maeda struck twice in the final eight minutes to round off a dramatic evening at the Yamaha Stadium.

The win takes Iwata up to sixth, ahead of Sagan Tosu and neighbours Shimizu S-Pulse on goal difference after a first professional goal for Daisuke Muramatsu gave Afshin Ghotbi’s men a 1-0 win in Kyushu.


Relegation-threatened Gamba Osaka ruined the 20th anniversary celebrations for Nagoya Grampus with one of the most astonishing J. League results in recent seasons – winning 5-0 away at the Toyota Stadium.

Leandro gave Gamba the lead on 38 minutes but the match turned decisively shortly afterwards when Takahiro Masukawa was dismissed – perhaps harshly – for a tug on Akihiro Sato in the penalty area.

Yasuhito Endo converted from the spot in typically languid style, before setting the visitors up for a rampant second half when his cross found the head of Yasuyuki Konno at the far post to make the score 3-0.

Sato backheeled the tenth goal of his debut top flight season shortly afterwards, before substitute Paulinho completed the scoring with a late tap-in.

The result brings Gamba to within two points of safety, and might have taken them out of the bottom three altogether had it not been for another impressive away victory for Omiya Ardija at FC Tokyo. Zdenko Verdenik’s side defended stoically before his Slovenian compatriat Milivoje Novaković netted the game’s only goal; his first since joining on loan from 1. FC Köln.

Elsewhere, Consadole Sapporo fought back from two behind at home to Vissel Kobe but late strikes from Takuya Nozawa and Ken Tokura eventually condemned them to a 4-2 defeat.

- Japan played out an unconvincing 1-1 friendly draw with Venezuela in Sapporo last Wednesday. Yasuhito Endo’s first half strike was cancelled out by Nicolas Fedor, with Shinji Kagawa missing an open goal days before his likely competitive debut for Manchester United away to Everton tonight.
- Ventforet Kofu’s lead over Kyoto Sanga at the top of J2 was cut to two points as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Kataller Toyama.

J1 results (matchday 22)
Consadole Sapporo 2-4 Vissel Kobe
FC Tokyo 0-1 Omiya Ardija
Vegalta Sendai 0-0 Kashiwa Reysol
Urawa Reds 2-1 Kashima Antlers
Yokohama F Marinos 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Albirex Niigata 0-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Jubilo Iwata 4-3 Cerezo Osaka
Nagoya Grampus 0-5 Gamba Osaka
Sagan Tosu 0-1 Shimizu S-Pulse

J2 results (matchday 28)
Tochigi SC 0-0 Thespa Kusatsu
Machida Zelvia 1-0 Tokushima Vortis
Matsumoto Yamaga 0-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Gainare Tottori 2-1 JEF United Chiba
Giravanz Kitakyushu 4-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Shonan Bellmare 1-1 Tokyo Verdy
Mito HollyHock 2-1 Oita Trinita
FC Gifu 1-2 Fagiano Okayama
Kyoto Sanga 2-1 Yokohama FC
Ehime FC 1-2 Montedio Yamagata
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Ventforet Kofu

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Monday 13 August 2012

Historic Olympic silver for Nadeshiko but men miss out on medal

The Japanese men’s hopes of returning from London with a first Olympic football medal since 1968 were dashed by defeats to Mexico in the semi-finals and South Korea in the bronze medal match, but Nadeshiko Japan made up for the disappointment by taking silver at the end of a superb campaign across the United Kingdom.

In Norio Sasaki’s final hurrah as manager, Japan clinched their place in the final of the women’s competition with a 2-1 victory over France last Monday.

A long free kick from Aya Miyama slipped through the fingers of French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi for Yuki Ogimi to open the scoring, before Miyama repeated the trick with a perfect ball onto the head of Mizuho Sakaguchi to double the advantage.

France hit back through substitute Eugenie le Sommer, but missed a golden chance to equalise when Elise Bussaglia sent a late penalty wide of the post.

The gold medal match at Wembley pitted Nadeshiko against the United States in a repeat of their glorious World Cup final matchup last year. But they were up against it immediately when Alex Morgan sent the ball across the six-yard box for Carli Lloyd to head the defending champions into an eighth-minute lead.

Japan fought back strongly, with both Ogimi and Miyama hitting the crossbar either side of a genuine penalty claim when Tobin Heath looked to have handled in the area.

But their lack of a clinical edge was exposed early in the second half when Lloyd was allowed too much room to run at the defence and hit a superb shot across Miho Fukumoto into the far corner of the net.

Ogimi scrambled home her third goal of the Games to halve the deficit after two attempts by Homare Sawa had been blocked, and Japan were given the perfect opportunity for a dramatic equaliser when Mana Iwabuchi took advantage of a defensive slip-up to run clean through on goal.

However, her hesitant shot was too close to Hope Solo, who pulled off a fine save to ensure victory for the Americans.

Tears at the final whistle were replaced with smiles by the time the teams returned to the pitch to collect their medals, as the gravity of their achievement began to dawn on the newly-decorated Japanese players. A crowd of over 80,000 – the largest ever to watch women’s football in the UK – was charmed by one last performance as the Nadeshiko squad took the podium and bowed in sequence to resemble a synchronised swimming team; or perhaps even Genki Sudo’s World Order dance troupe.


The men’s semi-final had started in the most positive fashion for Japan as Yuki Otsu smashed a terrific opener from outside the box after just 12 minutes.

But they were pegged back by a header from Marco Fabián on the half-hour mark, before an uncharacteristic error by Takahiro Ogihara allowed Oribe Peralta to loft the ball over Shuichi Gonda midway through the second half.

Javier Cortés made it 3-1 in stoppage time to send Takashi Sekizuka’s men to Cardiff for a grudge match for bronze against fierce rivals South Korea on Friday.

Japan again began well, but fell behind on the counter attack when Park Chu-Young was somehow allowed to get a shot inside Gonda’s near post despite having four defenders for company.

Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol, who was perhaps fortunate only to see yellow for an overzealous challenge on Otsu at 0-0, then broke through to make it two and dash Japanese dreams after 57 minutes.


In the J. League, Consadole Sapporo caused another unexpected twist in the title race with a last gasp 2-1 victory over Vegalta Sendai on Saturday afternoon.

The shock result allowed Sanfrecce Hiroshima to return to the top following their tense win by the same scoreline away to Omiya Ardija five hours later.

The chasing pack is tightly condensed after Urawa Reds lost away to Vissel Kobe while Kashiwa Reysol could only draw at home to FC Tokyo. Yokohama F Marinos and surprise package Sagan Tosu are right back in the championship picture after respective wins over Albirex Niigata and Kawasaki Frontale.

Amidst torrential rain, Gamba Osaka fought back from two down at home to city rivals Cerezo Osaka but were unable to turn their domination into a vital three points as the derby finished 2-2.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2, and Kashima Antlers edged Jubilo Iwata 2-1.

Olympic Games results – Men’s

Mexico 3-1 Japan
South Korea 0-3 Brazil

Bronze medal match
South Korea 2-0 Japan

Gold medal match
Brazil 1-2 Mexico

Olympic Games results – Women’s

France 1-2 Japan
Canada 3-4 United States (after extra time)

Bronze medal match
Canada 1-0 France

Gold medal match
United States 2-1 Japan

J1 results (matchday 21)
Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Vegalta Sendai
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-2 Nagoya Grampus
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Jubilo Iwata
Omiya Ardija 1-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashiwa Reysol 1-1 FC Tokyo
Kawasaki Frontale 1-2 Sagan Tosu
Yokohama F Marinos 3-2 Albirex Niigata
Gamba Osaka 2-2 Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe 1-0 Urawa Reds

J2 results (matchday 28)
Tokyo Verdy 0-1 Kyoto Sanga
Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Kataller Toyama 1-2 Matsumoto Yamaga
Avispa Fukuoka 1-3 Shonan Bellmare
Oita Trinita 0-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Montedio Yamagata 0-1 Yokohama FC
Thespa Kusatsu 1-1 FC Gifu
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Machida Zelvia
Gainare Tottori 0-2 Fagiano Okayama
Ehime FC 1-2 Tokushima Vortis
Roasso Kumamoto 3-0 Tochigi SC

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final second leg results
Kashiwa Reysol 2-1 Gamba Osaka (Kashiwa win 5-2 on aggregate)
FC Tokyo 2-0 Vegalta Sendai (FC Tokyo win 4-2 on aggregate)
Nagoya Grampus 3-4 Shimizu S-Pulse (4-4 on aggregate; Shimizu go through on away goals)
Cerezo Osaka 0-3 Kashima Antlers (Kashima win 5-1 on aggregate)
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Monday 06 August 2012

Japan inch closer to double medal glory

Japan’s male and female football teams each stand on the brink of Olympic medals after superb victories in the quarter-finals secured qualification for the last four at London 2012.

Nadeshiko Japan will line up against France at Wembley later this evening after beating Brazil 2-0 in Cardiff on Friday, while the men take on Mexico at the same venue tomorrow having thrashed Egypt 3-0 at Old Trafford 24 hours later.

With their places in the knockout stages assured with a game to spare, both sides had completed their group campaigns with rather uneventful scoreless draws, but the Japanese women were quick to restore excitement to the proceedings against Group E runners-up Brazil at the Millennium Stadium.

The captain Marta blazed over with a glorious chance for the South Americans on the quarter-hour mark, and Norio Sasaki’s charges took advantage to turn the screw for a spell of sustained pressure of their own. Yuki Ogimi opened the scoring after 26 minutes with a composed finish having been sent clean through by a smartly executed restart.

Brazil fought back after half time, missing two good opportunities to equalise when Marta’s free kick flew narrowly wide before strike partner Cristiane headed over.

But Nadeshiko were much more clinical, despite conceding the lion’s share of possession, and doubled their advantage on 73 minutes. Ogimi robbed Bruna to set up a counter attack and send a perfect ball over the defence for the on-running Shinobu Ohno, who cut inside and fired home off the underside of the bar.

The men were quick to demonstrate their attacking intentions in Manchester on Saturday, as Hiroshi Kiyotake headed the first chance wide inside just 30 seconds.

They did not have to wait long to find an opener, as Kiyotake dispossessed Eslam Ramadan just inside halfway and sent a low cross for Kensuke Nagai to knock the ball past both defender Saadeldin Saad and goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi, and finally into the vacant net.

Nagai was soon forced off with a bruised thigh sustained in the move – he should be fit for the semi-final – but his replacement, Manabu Saito, made a significant impact when he raced through on goal only to be tugged down just outside the area by Saad, who was promptly dismissed.

Japan took a while to make use of their man advantage and could have been forced to pay when Mohamed El Nery’s shot was well saved by Shuichi Gonda on 76 minutes.

But a well-deserved victory was sealed with two goals in five minutes thereafter. Kiyotake crossed in a low free kick for the skipper Maya Yoshida to dive in at the near post and head home Japan’s second, before a Takahiro Ogihara cross found Yuki Otsu free to head a late third.

Nadeshiko are looking for their first ever Olympic medal, having previously finished fourth in Beijing four years ago, while the men’s team took bronze in Mexico City way back in 1968.


In domestic news, Marcus Tulio Tanaka was the hero of the J. League weekend after netting four goals as a makeshift striker in Nagoya Grampus’s 5-1 drubbing of Vissel Kobe.

The result takes the 2010 champions back up to fifth; six points behind returning leaders Vegalta Sendai, who played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Yokohama F Marinos. Sanfrecce Hiroshima fall to second after conceding two late goals to suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat to Shimizu S-Pulse, who had been winless in nine and saw Lee Ki-Je dismissed earlier in the second half.

Returning hero Leandro netted twice as Gamba Osaka beat Omiya Ardija 3-1 to move within four points of safety and drag the Squirrels into the relegation zone with them. Cerezo Osaka are up to 14th ahead of next Saturday’s derby at Banpaku after trouncing bottom side Consadole Sapporo 4-0. Albirex Niigata continued their fine recent run under Masaaki Yanagishita with a 1-1 draw against champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Elsewhere, Urawa Reds and Jubilo Iwata missed the chance to close on the leaders after 2-2 home draws against FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale, respectively, while Kashima Antlers beat Sagan Tosu 2-0.

Olympic Games results – Men’s
Japan 0
-0 Honduras
Spain 0-0 Morocco

Japan 3
-0 Egypt
Mexico 4-2 Senegal (after extra time)
Brazil 3-2 Honduras
Great Britain 1-1 South Korea (after extra time; South Korea won 5-4 on penalties)

Olympic Games results – Women’s
Japan 0
-0 South Africa
Canada 2-2 Sweden

Sweden 1-2 France
United States 2-0 New Zealand
Brazil 0-2 Japan
Great Britain 0-2 Canada

J1 results (matchday 20)
Urawa Reds 2-2 FC Tokyo
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Albirex Niigata 1-1 Kashiwa Reysol
Jubilo Iwata 2-2 Kawasaki Frontale
Nagoya Grampus 5-1 Vissel Kobe
Gamba Osaka 3-1 Omiya Ardija
Cerezo Osaka 4-0 Consadole Sapporo
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-2 Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers 2-0 Sagan Tosu

J2 results (matchday 27)
Mito HollyHock 2-2 Montedio Yamagata
Tokyo Verdy 1-0 Kataller Toyama
Yokohama FC 1-0 Shonan Bellmare
Matsumoto Yamaga 1-1 Ehime FC
FC Gifu 0-3 Avispa Fukuoka
Giravanz Kitakyushu 1-1 Machida Zelvia
Tokushima Vortis 0-4 Oita Trinita
Thespa Kusatsu 1-2 Ventforet Kofu
JEF United Chiba 0-0 Tochigi SC
Kyoto Sanga 3-1 Gainare Tottori
Fagiano Okayama 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
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Monday 30 July 2012

Japan’s men and women safely through the Olympic group stages

Japan’s Olympic footballers have enjoyed a hugely impressive start to their medal quests in the United Kingdom, with both the men’s and women’s teams securing qualification for the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

24 hours before the spectacular opening ceremony in London, Takashi Sekizuka’s side pulled off the first real shock of the 2012 Games by beating the favourites Spain 1-0 at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Yuki Otsu slotted home from a Takahiro Ogihara corner on 34 minutes to stun the Spanish, who had Inigo Martinez sent off just before half time for pulling down Kensuke Nagai.

Nagai was then the hero in the early hours of this morning Japanese time with a late winner to see off Morocco in Newcastle.

Japan were made to work hard for their second straight 1-0 victory but recovered from a difficult start to slowly take control, with Maya Yoshida putting a free header wide just before the interval and Hiroshi Kiyotake cracking a shot against the crossbar early in the second period.

But with time running out, Nagai raced onto a lobbed pass from Kiyotake and beat the onrushing goalkeeper Mohamed Amsif to the ball, lofting it superbly into the vacated net from almost 30 yards.

A point from their final group game against Honduras on Wednesday will ensure top spot, thereby avoiding Brazil in the last eight.

Nadeshiko Japan beat Canada 2-1 in Coventry last Wednesday before a goalless draw with fellow women’s powerhouse Sweden at the same venue on Saturday guaranteed their progression from Group F.

Nahomi Kawasumi struck a terrific opener from a narrow angle to open the scoring against the Canadians after excellent work from Homare Sawa and Shinobu Ono, before a header from captain Aya Miyama doubled the advantage just before half time.

Melissa Tancredi pulled one back but Japan generally remained comfortable throughout. The only real issue appears to be a lack of decisiveness in front of goal; something that was again evident against Sweden as a succession of Nadeshiko stars missed chances to convert their domination into three points.


In the J. League, Nagai’s parent club Nagoya Grampus felt the absence of their young starlet on Saturday as their title challenge was hit by an embarrassing 2-1 defeat away to bottom side Consadole Sapporo.

The hosts took the lead on ten minutes when Ramon, one of three new overseas players making their Consadole debuts, played in Masaki Yamamoto on the overlap to fire confidently past Yoshinari Takagi.

Grampus were level three minutes later when Marcus Tulio Tanaka, forced to play up front with Joshua Kennedy and Keiji Tamada also missing through injury, scrambled the ball home from a corner. But they lacked the necessary bite in front of goal and were made to pay in second half injury time when Shinya Uehara headed in a Yamamoto cross to give Sapporo only their second win of the season.

Albirex Niigata’s resurgence under new boss Masaaki Yanagishita continued with a 2-0 victory away to FC Tokyo that takes them out of the relegation zone for the first time since April. Yuta Mikado fired home through a crowd of players before Alan Mineiro finished off a classy passing move with a fine shot from a difficult angle.

Gamba Osaka remain six points adrift of safety despite a 1-1 draw away to Vissel Kobe, now managed by former Gamba boss Akira Nishino, with Omiya Ardija the new target in 15th after their 4-1 drubbing at Kawasaki Frontale took them below Niigata on goal difference. Cerezo Osaka fell into the bottom three after losing by the same margin away to Kashiwa Reysol.

The reigning champions are now just four points off the summit in fourth following draws for each of the top two; Sanfrecce Hiroshima pegged back to 2-2 at Kashima Antlers and Vegalta Sendai held 1-1 at home to Sagan Tosu.

Urawa Reds are three points behind the leaders after beating Jubilo Iwata 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run to ten. Meanwhile, Yokohama F Marinos are up to sixth and unbeaten in a dozen league matches thanks to a 3-0 rout of Shimizu S-Pulse, now winless in nine.

- Ventforet Kofu beat Tokyo Verdy 3-1 on Sunday evening to take over at the top of J2.
- Shinji Kagawa scored his first goal for Manchester United in a 1-0 friendly win over Shanghai Shenhua, controlling a cutback from Bébé to volley in from close range.

Olympic Games results – Men’s
Honduras 2-2 Morocco
Spain 0-1 Japan
Japan 1
-0 Morocco
Spain 0-1 Honduras

Olympic Games results – Women’s
Japan 2-1 Canada
Sweden 4-1 South Africa
Japan 0-0 Sweden
Canada 3-0 South Africa

J1 results (matchday 19)
Consadole Sapporo 2-1 Nagoya Grampus
Urawa Reds 2-0 Jubilo Iwata
Vegalta Sendai 1-1 Sagan Tosu
Kashima Antlers 2-2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima
FC Tokyo 0-2 Albirex Niigata
Kashiwa Reysol 4-1 Cerezo Osaka
Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 Omiya Ardija
Yokohama F Marinos 3-0 Shimizu S-Pulse
Vissel Kobe 1-1 Gamba Osaka

J2 results (matchday 26)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Mito HollyHock
Machida Zelvia 1-2 Kyoto Sanga
Ventforet Kofu 3-1 Tokyo Verdy
Kataller Toyama 0-0 Yokohama FC
Gainare Tottori 1-0 FC Gifu
Ehime FC 1-2 Oita Trinita
Avispa Fukuoka 0-3 Thespa Kusatsu
Shonan Bellmare 1-0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Montedio Yamagata 1-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Fagiano Okayama 0-1 JEF United Chiba
Roasso Kumamoto 0-3 Tokushima Vortis

Yamazaki Nabisco Cup quarter-final first leg results
Vegalta Sendai 2-2 FC Tokyo
Kashima Antlers 2-1 Cerezo Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-1 Nagoya Grampus
Gamba Osaka 1-3 Kashiwa Reysol

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Monday 23 July 2012

Del Piero stars in Team As One charity match

Alessandro del Piero was the undisputed star of Saturday night’s J. League Special Match at Kashima Stadium, which pitted a J. League Select XI against a Team As One side consisting of players from Kashima Antlers and Vegalta Sendai – the clubs hit most directly by last year’s earthquake and tsunami – as well as others born in the affected Tohoku region.

In front of over 23,000 spectators, including 131 elementary school children invited from the stricken prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, Vegalta midfielder Ryang Yong-Gi took advantage of a mistake by Yuichi Komano to fire Team As One in front ten minutes before the interval.

But the moment everyone had hoped for came midway through the second half, when the former Juventus trequartista collected the ball from Daigo Nishi and casually fired a low shot past the unsighted Takanori Sugeno from around 25 yards out.

Sendai forward Shingo Akamine scored with a diving header almost immediately after the restart, before clubmate Yoshiaki Ota netted late on to complete a 4-0 victory for Team As One. The scoreline, however, mattered little on an evening set aside to remember the victims of last year’s tragedy and underline Japanese football’s continuing commitment to the recovery effort.

Del Piero was quoted by The Daily Yomiuri after the game as saying, “It was important to be here to give courage and strength not only to the north [of Japan] but to the whole country and its people, who have always supported me and always made me feel loved. So, the first thing I want to say is thank you, and the second is that I hope to come back soon, as I really like your country.”

Makoto Teguramori, the Vegalta manager who took charge of Team As One for this game, added “As players and club representatives from the affected region, we felt this was a game that we had to win... together with the J. League Select XI, I think we have been able to bring the joys of football to those affected by the disaster.”


Meanwhile, the Japanese men’s U-23 team will go into Thursday’s Olympic Games opener against Spain full of confidence after beating Mexico 2-1 in their final warm-up match at the City Ground in Nottingham.

Takashi Sekizuka’s side got off to a perfect start when a mistake by Hector Herrera allowed them to break forward and score within the opening minute. Hiroshi Kiyotake played the ball to Kensuke Nagai, who burst down the right flank and squared across the six-yard box for Keigo Higashi to net at the far post.

This year’s Toulon Tournament champions quickly fought back to control proceedings on the front foot thereafter, finally equalising six minutes before half time with a powerful shot from 25 yards by Marco Fabian.

But Japan defended solidly throughout – as they will have to against Spain – and found a dramatic winner on 87 minutes when Yuki Otsu of Borussia Mönchengladbach spectacularly volleyed home on the bounce from just outside the Mexico penalty area.

There was no such encouragement for the world champion women’s team, however, as they were beaten 2-0 away to France in their last warm-up on Thursday. Nadeshiko Japan will face Canada in their Olympic opener this Wednesday.

- Shinji Kagawa made a brief cameo at the very end of Manchester United’s 1-0 friendly win over AmaZulu last Wednesday, before starting and generally performing well in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ajax Cape Town.
- JEF United Chiba lost 1-0 at home to Ventforet Kofu on Sunday evening and surrendered their lead at the top of J2 to Tokyo Verdy, who beat Roasso Kumamoto 2-0.

J. League Special Match result
J. League Team As One 4-0 J. League Select XI

J2 results (matchday 25)
Mito HollyHock 4-2 Avispa Fukuoka
Tokyo Verdy 2-0 Roasso Kumamoto
Yokohama FC 3-1 Gainare Tottori
Matsumoto Yamaga 3-0 Fagiano Okayama
Kataller Toyama 1-2 Tochigi SC
Oita Trinita 2-2 FC Gifu
Shonan Bellmare 0-0 Montedio Yamagata
Tokushima Vortis 1-1 Giravanz Kitakyushu
Thespa Kusatsu 1-1 Machida Zelvia
JEF United Chiba 0-1 Ventforet Kofu
Kyoto Sanga 2-1 Ehime FC

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Tuesday 17 July 2012

Quick-fire Hiroshima edge into top spot while Kashiwa win crazy eight-goal thriller

Sanfrecce Hiroshima stand atop the J. League table for the first time in over ten years after overhauling Vegalta Sendai on goals scored thanks to a 3-0 thrashing of Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday.

While the long-time leaders were still reasonably satisfied with a scoreless draw from their tough away fixture at Nagoya Grampus, Hajime Moriyasu’s side made easy work of the opportunity to pull level on points, netting all three goals within the first 19 minutes.

The opener from Kohei Shimizu was a real belter – volleying a Yojiro Takahagi corner directly into the opposite side of the net from just to the right of the D.

Kawasaki goalkeeper Yohei Nishibe then miscontrolled a backpass from Yusuke Igawa to allow Hisato Sato to steal in and move to second in the all-time J. League scorers’ list with 158 career goals, one ahead of Masashi ‘Gon’ Nakayama.

Sato headed another shortly afterwards to increase his seasonal tally to 14 – a clear six ahead of his closest rivals.

Third-placed Urawa Reds extended their unbeaten run to nine but are now five points behind the top two after drawing a blank away to improving Albirex Niigata.

Yuichi Komano corners found the head of Cho Byung-Kuk twice and Rodrigo Souto once for the Japan full-back to register three assists in fourth-placed Jubilo Iwata’s 4-1 drubbing of Consadole Sapporo – who have now lost 16 of their 18 league matches this season.

Tozin struck late for Sagan Tosu to seal a 1-0 win over FC Tokyo, while Shintaro Shimizu and Daisuke Watabe both notched their first ever J. League goals as Omiya Ardija drew 2-2 with Vissel Kobe.

Just six points now cover 11 teams, from Urawa in third all the way down to Kobe in 13th.


Defending champions Kashiwa Reysol moved back up to fifth, just six points behind Hiroshima, after emerging victorious from an astonishing eight-goal thriller at Shimizu S-Pulse that featured three penalties and as many sendings off.

Shinji Ono missed the opportunity to finally register the hosts’ 1,000th J. League goal when his penalty flew wide of the post after Daisuke Nasu had been harshly penalised for handball.

He was made to pay when Leandro Domingues gave Kashiwa the lead from the spot on 33 minutes, following another handball by Keisuke Iwashita, but yet another penalty moments later allowed Genki Omae to hit the milestone goal for S-Pulse and restore parity.

Iwashita then saw red on half time for a late challenge on Masakatsu Sawa, but Naohiro Takahara’s twisting header put Shimizu in front eight minutes after the restart and Leandro’s carelessness in possession allowed Alex Brosque to race in and make the score 3-1.

An altercation on the touchline then reduced the numbers to nine versus ten as both Yutaka Yoshida and Jorge Wagner were dismissed with a quarter of the game remaining. Masato Kudo then pulled one back for Kashiwa to set up a dramatic climax.

With two minutes left on the clock, Nasu’s dangerous cross was palmed onto the crossbar by Akihiro Hayashi, only to drop perfectly for Wataru Hashimoto to head the equaliser into the empty net from point-blank range.

Deep into injury time, Koki Mizuno forced Reysol in front when the home defence failed to properly clear their counter attack, and Kudo rounded off a fine passing move to seal the points at 5-3.

Elsewhere, Gamba Osaka looked to have rescued a point at home to Yokohama F Marinos when Paulinho levelled the scores three minutes from time, but Manabu Saito hit a last-gasp winner following excellent work from the former Gamba striker Masashi Oguro.

The 2005 champions’ best chance of avoiding relegation could well be local rivals Cerezo Osaka, who are now six points ahead of Gamba and just two above Niigata in 15th position after losing 1-0 at home to Kashima Antlers.

- The top six teams in J2 are separated by just two points, with JEF United Chiba leading the way on goal difference after winning 1-0 at Yokohama FC.
- Alessandro del Piero will play in a charity match at the Kashima Stadium next Saturday to support the ongoing recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March last year. The game pits a Team as One side of players from the Tohoku region affected by the disaster against a fan-chosen selection of J. League stars.

J1 results (matchday 18)
Shimizu S-Pulse 3-5 Kashiwa Reysol
Omiya Ardija 2-2 Vissel Kobe
Albirex Niigata 0-0 Urawa Reds
Jubilo Iwata 4-1 Consadole Sapporo
Nagoya Grampus 0-0 Vegalta Sendai
Gamba Osaka 1-2 Yokohama F Marinos
Cerezo Osaka 0-1 Kashima Antlers
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Sagan Tosu 1-0 FC Tokyo

J2 results (matchday 24)
Tochigi SC 1-0 Machida Zelvia
Tokyo Verdy 1-0 Gainare Tottori
Yokohama FC 0-1 JEF United Chiba
Ventforet Kofu 2-1 Matsumoto Yamaga
Giravanz Kitakyushu 0-1 Thespa Kusatsu
Oita Trinita 1-4 Shonan Bellmare
Montedio Yamagata 3-1 Avispa Fukuoka
FC Gifu 2-2 Kataller Toyama
Fagiano Okayama 0-0 Tokushima Vortis
Ehime FC 1-1 Mito HollyHock
Roasso Kumamoto 0-1 Kyoto Sanga

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Monday 09 July 2012

Key victory for Sanfrecce but efficient Vegalta hold onto top spot

Sanfrecce Hiroshima established themselves as the closest challengers to J1 leaders Vegalta Sendai at the midway point of the season with a 2-0 victory at home to Jubilo Iwata.

With the two sides respectively in second and third place at the start of play, the match remained a tense, even contest until a sensational passing move finally forced Hiroshima in front with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

Yojiro Takahagi, Koji Nakajima, and Naoki Ishihara combined with speed and precision to play the ball towards the Iwata penalty area, where Hisato Sato cleverly backheeled into the path of the on-running Nakajima. The substitute midfielder took one touch to free enough space for a quick finish into the far corner.

Koji Morisaki made sure of the points with a fine turn and shot from 25 yards at the end of added time.

The result drops Jubilo all the way down to sixth, while Sanfrecce remain two points off the top after Sendai won 1-0 away to Vissel Kobe.

Makoto Teguramori’s side were made to work hard, retreating into their defensive third under Kobe pressure for sustained periods, but their back four and goalkeeper remained typically resistant and a single Shingo Akamine strike was enough for victory.

Ryang Yong-Gi played a 1-2 with Makoto Kakuda to run in behind the hosts’ defence from the left flank and play the ball across the six-yard line for Akamine to slot home at the far post.

Nagoya Grampus moved up to fourth after beating Kashiwa Reysol in a battle of the last two championship winners at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Kensuke Nagai lit up the game in only the ninth minute when his burst into the penalty area took four opponents out of the equation as he crossed the ball for Joshua Kennedy to deftly backheel in the opener between two Kashiwa defenders on the line.

Reysol were level when Leandro Domingues arrived at the near post to flick a corner from Jorge Wagner inside the far, but the game was decided when captain Hidekazu Otani performed the same feat from an almost identical position – only after the sides had switched ends for the second half.

The unfortunate own goal puts an end to the champions’ seven-match unbeaten run and sees them fall to seventh.


Urawa Reds are up to third, five points behind Sendai, but were somewhat relieved to emerge with victory over Sagan Tosu after almost surrendering a four-goal advantage.

Genki Haraguchi had a point to prove after missing the cut for the London Olympics squad, and started emphatically when his seventh-minute shot hit the post only for Tsukasa Umesaki to net the rebound.

A superb through ball from inside Reds territory by Yosuke Kashiwagi sent in Tadaaki Hirakawa to finish in style from a difficult angle, before an emotional Haraguchi added two of his own in the following four minutes to send his side into a 4-0 lead.

But a header from Sagan’s Brazilian forward Tozin midway through the second half triggered another crazy four-minute spell, as Naoyuki Fujita scored twice in quick succession to cut the deficit to just 4-3 before Urawa held on for a nervy last 20 minutes.

Albirex Niigata are back to within three points of safety after a 1-0 win away to hapless Consadole Sapporo, who have now lost eight on the bounce, but Gamba Osaka fall to second from bottom after another dreadful start proved costly in their 3-2 reverse at FC Tokyo.

Shimizu S-Pulse are now without a league win in seven, and will have to wait another week for their 1,000th J. League goal following a scoreless stalemate at home to Kawasaki Frontale.

Elsewhere, Kashima Antlers beat Omiya Ardija 1-0, while Yokohama F Marinos drew 1-1 with Cerezo Osaka.

- The full Japan men’s squad for the Olympic Games is as follows:

Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo), Shunsuke Ando (Kawasaki Frontale)

Yuhei Tokunaga (FC Tokyo), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96), Maya Yoshida (VVV Venlo), Kazuya Yamamura (Kashima Antlers), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart), Daisuke Suzuki (Albirex Niigata)

Takahiro Ogihara, Hotaru Yamaguchi (both Cerezo Osaka), Taisuke Muramatsu (Shimizu S-Pulse), Keigo Higashi (Omiya Ardija), Takashi Usami (TSG Hoffenheim), Hiroshi Kiyotake (1.FC Nürnberg)

Yuki Otsu (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Kenyu Sugimoto (Tokyo Verdy), Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F Marinos)

J1 results (matchday 17)
Consadole Sapporo 0-1 Albirex Niigata
Urawa Reds 4-3 Sagan Tosu
Shimizu S-Pulse 0-0 Kawasaki Frontale
Kashima Antlers 1-0 Omiya Ardija
FC Tokyo 3-2 Gamba Osaka
Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Nagoya Grampus
Yokohama F Marinos 1-1 Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe 0-1 Vegalta Sendai
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 Jubilo Iwata

J2 results (matchday 23)
Mito HollyHock 1-1 Shonan Bellmare
Machida Zelvia 0-1 Ventforet Kofu
Matsumoto Yamaga 3-2 Tokyo Verdy
Gainare Tottori 0-2 Tochigi SC
Fagiano Okayama 0-1 Yokohama FC
Avispa Fukuoka 1-3 Tokushima Vortis
Giravanz Kitakyushu 2-0 Ehime FC
JEF United Chiba 3-2 Kyoto Sanga
FC Gifu 0-2 Roasso Kumamoto
Thespa Kusatsu 0-2 Oita Trinita
Kataller Toyama 1-1 Montedio Yamagata

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